Joe Coulombe

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Joe Coulombe
Coulombe in 1986
Joseph Hardin Coulombe

(1930-06-03)June 3, 1930
San Diego, California, U.S.
DiedFebruary 28, 2020(2020-02-28) (aged 89)
Alma materStanford University (BA, MBA)
Known forFounder and CEO of Trader Joe's
SpouseAlice Steere

Joseph Hardin Coulombe (June 3, 1930 – February 28, 2020)[1] was an American entrepreneur. He founded the grocery store chain Trader Joe's in 1967 and ran it until his retirement in 1988.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Coulombe was born in San Diego, California, and grew up on an avocado farm in nearby Del Mar.[3][4] After serving a year in the U.S. Air Force, he attended Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1952 and a Master of Business Administration degree in 1954.[4][5] Coulombe was a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda.[6]


Coulombe started his career at Rexall, a chain of American drugstores. In 1958, he was asked to test the launch of Pronto Markets, a store brand to compete against 7-Eleven. After running six Pronto Markets in the Los Angeles area, Rexall asked Coulombe to liquidate them; he decided to buy them out instead.[2] In 1967, Coulombe changed the name Pronto Markets to Trader Joe's. He led the chain to success and sold it in 1979 to German billionaire Theo Albrecht, co-founder of the Aldi supermarket chain.[2][7] Coulombe continued with Trader Joe's as chief executive officer until retiring in 1988.[2]

Coulombe served on the corporate boards of Cost Plus World Market, Bristol Farms, True Religion, and Imperial Bank.[4][8]

Personal life and death[edit]

In 1952, Coulombe married Alice Steere, whom he met at a party while they were students at Stanford. Alice served on the board and is a life trustee of the Los Angeles Opera.[9][10] They had three children, Joe, Charlotte, and Madeleine. Coulombe and his family lived in Pasadena, California.[4]

Coulombe was a board member of the Huntington Library,[11] the Colburn School, and the Los Angeles Opera.[4]

On February 28, 2020, Coulombe died at his home in Pasadena, at age 89.[12][4][1]


  1. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (February 29, 2020). "Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe's, dies at 89". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d He Brought Trader Joe's to Main Street Archived August 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine February 2006
  3. ^ Rogers, John (March 1, 2020). "Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe's grocery chain, dies at 89". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Kevin (February 29, 2020). "Trader Joe's Founder Joe Coulombe dies at age 89". Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  5. ^ "Trader Joe's founder Joe Coulumbe dies at 89". KTLA. Associated Press. February 28, 2020. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  6. ^ "Alpha Kappa Lambda and Its Connection to Trader Joe's". April 23, 2015. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  7. ^ Kowitt, Beth (August 23, 2010). "Inside the secret world of Trader Joe's". Fortune Magazine. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014 – via
  8. ^ Kowitt, Beth (August 23, 2010). "Meet the original Joe". Fortune Magazine. Archived from the original on February 7, 2017. Retrieved August 27, 2010 – via
  9. ^ Haithman, Diane (October 8, 2006). "Holding onto a high note". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ "Our Board". Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  11. ^ "Trustees and Governors". Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  12. ^ "Trader Joe's founder dies at age 89". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 29, 2020. Retrieved February 29, 2020.

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